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Bitter cold can’t defeat locals’ love of iced coffee

When temperatures drop below zero, Pawtucket resident Jimmy Seaver can be seen bundled up in a New England Patriots hat holding … an iced coffee?

“I shovel my way out of the house to go get an iced coffee,” he said. “I drink iced coffee every day. Rain, sleet, or snow.”

Seaver isn’t alone. It seems a distinctly New England practice to drink iced coffee in the winter, and many Rhode Islanders proudly participate in the stereotype. Irene Pina, a manager at the Honey Dew Donuts on Smith Street in North Providence, said she sees more than 50 iced coffee orders a day during the snowy season. To her, it’s part of the culture in Rhode Island.

“It’s like coffee milk and hot weenies,” she said.

One time while on vacation, said Pina, her husband ordered iced coffee and was given a cup of hot coffee with ice cubes in it. The mishap showed her that some people outside New England have never even heard of iced coffee.

Sarah Larochelle, server at the Honey Dew at Chapel Four Corners in Cumberland, agreed that iced coffee is misunderstood in many areas outside of New England, and definitely when it comes to winter drink choices. This region has a wider variety in weather and coffee drinks than just about anywhere else, she said, and people here like to express their individualism by going with the unexpected.

To Ann Marie Conlon, of Scituate, iced coffee goes hand-in-hand with other New England traits. Every Monday after a Patriots win, she buys a discounted iced coffee as celebration.

The New England die-hard said she prefers how iced coffee is designed to be cold from the start. Hot coffee can grow cold quickly, Conlon said, and is not enjoyable when lukewarm.

“I don’t drink (coffee) quick enough, and a hot coffee becomes an iced coffee anyway,” she said, laughing.

Cory Matera, of North Providence, has iced coffee every morning, regardless of the temperature. She said it’s hard to really pinpoint why some people stick to iced coffee year-round.

“I don’t know why, but I know a lot of people prefer cold even in the winter. That’s their preference I guess,” she said.

The characteristics of iced coffee are what draw some Ocean State residents during snow and bitterly cold temperatures.

Seaver said he prefers his coffee iced because it’s refreshing and quenches his thirst more efficiently than a hot version of the drink.

Julia Santos, of Cumberland, said people think she’s crazy, but she finds that hot coffee actually makes her thirsty. Santos orders iced coffee all winter, and doesn’t need a hot cup as she’s walking out of the Chapel Four Corners Honey Dew.

Pina agreed that iced coffee is a better beverage when trying to combat thirst, and she also chooses it because hot coffee can burn when one tries to consume it quickly.

Emily Anderson, of Marylou’s Coffee in Cumberland, said she heard drinking iced coffee to cool the insides actually makes one feel warmer on the outside, though she can’t confirm that to be true. Coworker Cassidy Harriman said frozen drinks were also popular on a Dec. 29 evening where temperatures had already dropped to seven degrees, and she’d already sold three of the blended beverages in the two hours she’d been on the clock.

While hot coffee lovers might find the cold coffee addicts crazy for their preference, dedicated iced coffee fans find the temperature to be that much more of a justification.

“We’re used to the cold weather, why not have a cold drink,” said Marian Fazah, of Cumberland, clutching a Starbucks iced coffee as she stepped into 12-degree temperatures outside at the Lincoln Mall.

Paul Melo, of Burrillville, shared a similar sentiment about the correlation of cold weather and cold coffee.

“It keeps the internal of the body as cool as the outside,” he said. “It keeps the internals and the externals balanced.”

Iced coffee enthusiasts make appearances not only at quick-stop coffee destinations, but also at sit-down cafés.

Caitlin Deresta, a waitress and food runner at Tumblesalts Café in North Providence, said the restaurant gets iced coffee orders daily in the winter.

“Pretty much every table that comes in here (gets it), one person from each table I would say,” she said.

And when one’s hands get cold while holding an iced coffee in chilly temperatures, there are protective measures the devoted drinkers can take.

Jeff Sheehan, a Lincoln resident and student at Bentley University, said he and the majority of other students walk to class in the winter with an iced coffee in hand. Adding a hot cup or implementing strategic cup holding can prevent hands from going numb.

“Just hold it with your fingertips towards the top and it’s not as bad,” he said.

To Sheehan, iced coffee in the winter is normal. But hot coffee in the summer? Now that’s just absurd.



– Breeze Editor Ethan Shorey contributed to this story.


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